Tables turned: The PLP Government opened Grand Atlantic in 2011 and endured a hail of criticism. Now the OBA is selling the units.  *File photo
Tables turned: The PLP Government opened Grand Atlantic in 2011 and endured a hail of criticism. Now the OBA is selling the units. *File photo

Government has been accused of “changing its tune” over the Grand Atlantic development.

PLP MP Michael Weeks claims the OBA deliberately “scaremongered” about the project for political gain. Now he says the previous concerns over the development have seemingly disappeared so Government can sell the property.

But Government fired back last night, saying: “Yes, the government is trying to sell the Grand Atlantic project, but any buyer the government negotiates with will know up front what the problems are, and will take responsibility for dealing with those problems.”

As we revealed last week, a major announcement regarding the future sale of the Grand Atlantic is expected to be made very shortly.

Mr Weeks told the Sun: “I feel the OBA undermined the whole project by scaring people from buying units because they kept saying it was unsafe on social media and in the newspapers.

“Now they are trying to sell it they have to come clean and say whether it is safe or not.”

In 2012, OBA members Nalton Brangman and Sylvan Richards both took to Facebook to express concerns about the project.

Mr Brangman said: “Someone should be arrested for this debacle.”

He later added: “Now all of Bermuda can see what happens when you bypass the very laws put there to protect us.

“Do we need to see the first one collapse into the water before someone says oooops?

“Anyone who buys this has put a gun to their head. They will never see their money back. It is the worst form of investment possible, in my view.”

We reached out to Mr Brangman for comment for this story but without success.

‘A blight’

Mr Richards branded the development a “blight on a prime piece of precious land”.

In March 2012 he posted: “When Government broke ground on this development and the first of these units started going up, I knew it was a disaster in the making.

“It will be a drain on Government’s finances and will further depress the housing market. Nothing good will come out of this.

“People who are fooled into buying these units with no money down will be struggling to meet their financial obligations.

“This debacle pretty much sums up this Government’s efforts; good intentions, coupled with half-baked ideas = bad outcomes.”

Last night Mr Richards stood by his 2012 comments, saying “nowhere in my post did I state the units were unsafe. That was not my focus. What I did state was that the no-money-down financing arrangement the previous government had with the banks would make it difficult for purchasers to repay their loans, which was not a positive. 

“I also felt that the construction of the Grand Atlantic units on that location, on Bermuda’s ‘Gold Coast’, was a travesty to begin with and never should have been granted permission in the first place. 

“Now that the units are built, the current government is doing its best to salvage this property and to find a business model that works best so that government does not have to continue to service the debt on these units.”

The war of words between the two parties also played out on social media over the weekend.

The Bermuda Election group site was inundated with comments after the 2012 messages were highlighted again.

Deputy Premier Michael Dunkley waded into the row, accepting that the OBA was very critical of the $45 million project,  but adding: “Government is working hard to find a good (use) for the property and the buildings.”

Yesterday Mr Weeks, who was Minister of Works and Engineering in 2012, added: “I inherited the Grand Atlantic project just like the OBA.

“My belief is that they played politics with people’s emotions.

“They made people believe it was unsafe and now they are trying to sell it on and crying a different tune.

“They have to come clean and say once and for all if it is safe.”

But the OBA hit back at the accusations last night. Thad Hollis, OBA chairman, made this statement: “The Grand Atlantic project was conceived, funded and built by the Progressive Labour Party Government to the tune of $45 million.

“It had major issues, as all Bermudians know, which was the reason that the PLP government only ever managed to sell one unit.

“The difference between the approach of the PLP government when they were in power and that of the present government is that we are not trying to fool anyone into thinking there are no problems with the development.”